July 7, 2002
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture Reading

Matthew 11:28-30
28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (NRSV)

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Sermon - Reach out to Jesus

One of my favorite hymns is not in our hymnal. It is called “Reach Out to Jesus.” I first heard it in 1974 when my husband, Bruce and I joined a very small Methodist Church that really liked to sing a lot. The words to the hymn go like this.

“Is your burden heavy as you bear it all alone. Does the road you travel harbor dangers yet unknown. Are you growing weary in the struggle of it all? Jesus will help you if on his name you call. He is always there, hearing every prayer, faithful and true. Walking by his side, in his love you hide all the day through. When you get discouraged, just remember what to do. Reach out to Jesus, he’s reaching out to you. “

Our Church sang it so often that before long I had committed it to memory, so when I can’t find my way through a situation, when I am stressed out or too tired the song begins to play automatically in my brain, . Reach out to Jesus.

Jesus says “Come to me and I will give you rest.” What an offer. But, really what can Jesus do for us. After all, we are here – on earth, struggling with big issues, wars, planes that collide, terrorists, illness, wild fires, floods, draught, a struggling stock market. We need some rest, we need some one to lift the burdens that we carry every day. But how can Jesus do that? “come to me and I will give you rest. “

One of you gave me an email received from Lindsey Yeskoo, the wife of Paul Yeskoo, a Christian Foreign Service Officer serving in Shanghai. It is about her experience of meeting the president when he was in China this spring.

The story goes like this…

She and her 3 kids were in the very front row as president Bush came along. The first thing that happened was that he shook her son’s hand, and complimented him on how well dressed he was. His mother thought back to the effort it had taken to get her son to wear a tie and a jacket. Then the president continued on shaking each of their hands as he proceeded down the row. Just before he moved away Lindsey Yeskoo violated all of the rules and leaned over to the president and said “we pray for you every day”. The secret service men began to move into position to protect the president, when Mr. Bush went back to her and searched her eyes and her face to see if he heard her right.

Then, for the next few seconds he told her how difficult it had been to wake up each day of the crisis, but how it had been made better knowing that others were faithfully praying for him. He urged her to continue, every day, and then he looked her squarely in the eyes and gave her instructions about the things he needed prayers for on behalf of himself and our nation. Specifically, That God might shield our nation from terrorism so that we can have the strength and resources bring an to end it everywhere. And he asked that God give him wisdom to lead our nation through this time. He finished this time with her by putting his hand on her shoulder and looking her square in the eye. At that moment she could see the weariness and the pain that he has experienced. Then the resident moved on to the podium to speak.

The author of the email remembered the day of the Memorial service in the National Cathedral, just 3 days after September 11. She remembered Mr. Bush standing in front of the congregation, speaking with confidence and resolve. It seemed to her that it was just him and the Lord that day. He seemed so alone. She remembered that as he walked back to his seat and sat down his father reached over and took his son’s hand as if to say, “I wish that I could do this for you”. And she wondered if the look of peace on the president’s face meant that he knew he wasn’t alone, he knew that Jesus was with him.

And she couldn’t help but be reminded of another father / son team, a Father that knew only the son could bring us what we really need. a son that was willing to lean on the father, that we might have life eternal.

Jesus is there for us, because he knows the struggles of the real world. He knows the harshness of society, the hatred, the jealousy, the fears. He is there, reaching out to us, From the cross, arms extended.

But, how do we reach out to Jesus? We can do that through our prayers, in our hearts, of course. And that will offer us some peace. But there is an even better way. - We can reach out to each other. We can let each other know when we need support – we can ask for prayers for our struggles, we can rely on each other when we need help.

That sounds easy enough, but the fact is, most of us are raised to handle our problems alone. We struggle and struggle rather than admit that we are in over our heads. I was raised in the Midwest, in farm country. We were taught to never, never talk with anyone about our problems. We handled them in the family. I always wondered where that pattern came from, and then I moved to New Milford. We are in Yankee territory, the people that invented that idea and have mastered it. Take care of your own, people of few words, tough and independent, be self-sufficient. How well does it work?

Let me ask you. Do you feel supported by Jesus? How heavy are your burdens. Do you have a sense of impending doom, or a sense of peace. Do you find rest in the evening or does your mind spin with the burdens of the day?

Jesus is here this morning, with us in our communion – our communion with him and with each other. We come at his invitation, to dine at his table. We are invited into communion with Jesus and with one another - we are invited to lay our burdens at Jesus’ feet and then connect with each other. God knows that real world burdens require real and concrete support. Jesus invites us to lay our heaviest burdens at his feet, he also commissions us to be his hands and feet in the world. We are the support that Jesus offers. Our prayers for each other, our helping hands, our words of sympathy, our hugs of encouragement will be that concrete support that we so need. So, let us reach out to Jesus, and reach out to one another as we open our hearts to our savior at his table.

Come for all is ready, this table is set. Come to receive comfort and your commission.

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